WisDOT leaders hopeful for increase in Northwoods railSubmitted: 04/24/2014
Story By Adam Fox

WisDOT leaders hopeful for increase in Northwoods rail
ACROSS THE NORTHWOODS - Railroads give businesses a chance to move loads of material for a low cost. Loggers could use rail as an alternative to trucking material, but many businesses don't get that opportunity in the Northwoods anymore.

Canadian National bought rail in the Northwoods about a decade ago. They have cut back service drastically since then.

Some counties haven't seen train travel in years, which hurts business. Now, those businesses want to reestablish rail service.

In response, a group of counties in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan formed the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission.

Their goal is to bring back efficient rail to their counties. The group has been working with Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) officials, like Dennis Leong, since forming the group in 2012.

Leong believes there is an opportunity to bring back rail to the region based off of the feedback from businesses and local governments.

"We did a survey of businesses in the Northwoods area and found potentially quite a few business interests in rail," Leong said. "They're meeting with CN (Canadian National) and having discussions, so hopefully maybe certain sections can be brought back to service."

Leong wants to help expand rail in the north, but private companies might only re-establish rail if they think they can make money on it.

"Part of the challenge is that you have to have the volume in which the railroads want to make sure they have an operating system to put back in service," Leong said.

Leaders at the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission are trying to win a multimillion dollar federal grant, TIGER, from the U.S. Department of Transportation to get more log cars for rail in the Northwoods. They'll host their monthly meeting Friday at 10 a.m. at the Oneida County Courthouse.

Wisconsin has 13 freight railroads using a system of more than 33 hundred mile of rail, according to WisDOT.

Related Weblinks:
Northwoods Rail Transit Commission

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ONEIDA COUNTY - Every second counts when it comes to saving a life. But in rural parts of Wisconsin, it can take paramedics up to 30 minutes to respond to an emergency.

A new bill in Wisconsin would require dispatchers to know how to explain verbally CPR over the phone.

When Sherri Congleton answers a 911, call she is often thrown into a life or death situation.

"You kind of form a bond with the person on the other side of the phone when you answer a call like that," said Congleton.

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RHINELANDER - Golfers can't wait to get back on the course after our long, tiring winter.  We'll need to melt a lot more snow to make that happen, but on a Rhinelander-area lake this weekend, ice will be needed for golfing.

Fisher's Resort on Lake George will host the 13th-annual Ice Golf tournament Saturday.  Golfers shoot real golf balls on nine holes on the frozen lake.  The four-person scramble format costs $40 per team.

The event is one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the Hodag Sno-Trails snowmobile club.

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RHINELANDER - Just like many small community courthouses, Oneida County doesn't have any way of keeping guns out of the building.

In response, on Tuesday, the Oneida County Board approved a mandatory active shooter training session for all employees.

"You have to keep your eyes open," said Oneida County Human Resource Director Lisa Charbarneau.

Charbarneau has learned not everyone who walks into the Oneida County Courthouse has good intentions.

"We do deal with not so pleasant things, whether that be social services, removing children from homes, we have inmates in and out for issues in the court," said Charbarneau.

The courthouse has an open door policy with multiple entrances open to the public.

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ARBOR VITAE - An Arbor Vitae restaurant may be relatively new to the area, but regulars quickly started packing the place every Friday for fish fry.

Ron and Marlena Schisel opened Outback 51 about a year ago.

They say it was tough being the "newbies" at first, but their fish fry got people in the door from the start.

Bluegill is the favorite plate at this fish fry.

" Surprisingly we sell more bluegill more than any other fish. It is a Northwood's native fish, people want to see if it takes the fish that they have when they clean fish," says Ron.

Outback 51 serves fish fry Fridays starting at 11 a.m.

Click link below for more info.

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OCONOMOWOC - Authorities say more than 70 people were treated at local hospitals after an air quality issue forced the evacuation of Oconomowoc High School and the adjacent Oconomowoc Arts Center.

Western Lakes Fire District Chief Brad Bowen says low carbon monoxide readings were detected on some of the first patients treated, but officials could not immediately find a cause or source.

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MADISON - The Wisconsin State Patrol says it saw more drugged drivers on the roads and had a significant increase in drug arrests from 2016 to 2017.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that the State Patrol saw a 20 percent increase in drug arrests during that time period, with fewer than 2,900 arrests in 2016 to more than 3,400 last year. A drug arrest involves the possession of illegal narcotics or paraphernalia.

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MADISON - A new report shows Wisconsin's unemployment rate hit a record low in February.

The state Department of Workforce Development released data Thursday that shows the unemployment rate dipped to 2.9 percent in February, down 0.2 percent from January to mark a record low. The previous record was 3 percent unemployment in July 1999.

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